Smoking And Cardiovascular Disease

Smoking increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, which affects the heart, lungs and major blood vessels, which carry blood to and from the heart. Smoking increases your risk of suffering a heart attack and stroke and it can also lead to heart failure and high blood pressure. The Department of Health estimates that around 1 in 6 heart disease deaths are linked to smoking. Heart disease is the UK’s biggest killer, leading to 120,000 deaths per year. If you smoke, you’re twice as likely to have a stroke and a heart attack as a non-smoker and twice as likely to die from a stroke or a heart attack. 

Strokes and heart attacks

Smoking causes hard, fatty deposits to gather in your arteries and this makes it difficult for blood to flow freely; it is important that blood flows normally to enable oxygen, which is carried by haemoglobin, to be delivered around the body. If blood is unable to flow normally and there are obstructions, such as fatty deposits known as atheroma, this results in oxygen deprivation and it may trigger a stroke or heart attack. A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is obstructed, while a heart attack happens when oxygen does not reach the heart muscle; both strokes and heart attacks can be fatal and require urgent medical attention. 

Warning signs of a heart attack include:

  • chest pain
  • tightness in the chest
  • breathlessness
  • pain in the jaw, arms, stomach and back
  • feeling dizzy
  • sweating

    Symptoms of a stroke include:

  • a drooping face (usually on one side)
  • slurred speech
  • weakness in one or both arms

High blood pressure

Smoking increases blood pressure, which is the force at which the blood travels through the blood vessels; high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. When you smoke, the nicotine acts as a stimulant and this causes the body to release adrenaline, which pushes your blood pressure up; when your blood pressure is high, your heart muscle has to work harder to get blood and oxygen around the body.


Smoking increases the risk of blood clotting and this in turn, increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes, as blood clots can block blood supply. 

Lower oxygen levels

One of the most harmful ingredients in tobacco smoke is carbon monoxide; when you inhale carbon monoxide, it reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood. Your organs need oxygen to function properly and so the heart has to beat harder to circulate the blood and ensure your organs and muscles get enough oxygen. People who smoke often feel breathless and tired because there is less oxygen in their blood. 

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